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June-August 2015

Readers' Bidding Forum with Fraser Rew, June-August 2014

The following comments were received from the readers of Australia's national bridge magazine, Australian Bridge, and other bridge enthusiasts. The same problems are also discussed in the magazine, by an international panel of Andrew Robson, Larry Cohen, Mike Lawrence, Bob Jones, Frank Stewart,
Eddie Kantar, and Zia Mahmood, as well as many top Australian players.

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Hand One - West deals, both vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) AJT975
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 5
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) Q43
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) A52


West North East South
pass 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) * pass pass ?

3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is not constructive.

Call Award %
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 50 19
Dbl 90 31 26
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 70 19 48
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 40 0 3
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 1
Other 0 0 2
Welcome back, belatedly, to the midwinter edition of the Bidding Forum. That means, unbelievably, that by the time you read this, I will have been in Australia for six years. Where have they gone?

Problem 1 is an uncomfortable situation (maybe that's why it's called a Problem): we've got almost enough to be happy forcing to game, but not quite, especially when we don't know what sort of a fit we've got. At IMPs we'd just bid game, but at Matchpoints maybe it's best to invite? Alternatively, there's a middle ground: we can double, though that certainly doesn't show a sixth spade. Let's hear first from those who opt to go low:

Damo Nair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). A bit cautious at MPs

Alex Kemeny (with Daniel Braun, Robert Black and Tania Black, similarly): 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Good 6 card majors bear repeating.

Peter Robinson: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My initial optimism has gradually subsided through 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), then 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), and now I'm wondering whether I should just double (see Law of Total Tricks). A minor game on repeated trump leads looks problematic. Spades look vulnerable to a force, and if partner has wastage in hearts, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) isn't even an underbid. Partner is in a better position to judge whether his spade and heart holdings are worth 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or perhaps 3NT.

David Matthews: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Game interest allowing partner to evaluate his hand in support of Spades. 

Rainer Herrmann: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). not forcing, but certainly encouraging. 

Michael Burt: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner looks to be a minimum and game is probably not on but it might be if partner knows that I am more than a minimum with long spades. I'm not certain 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is going off but 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should have a good chance of making. 

Conny Wahlgren: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). So partner can bid 3NT when it's right :) 

Tim Trahair: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). We have the majority of the HCP and we need to show partner our strength. If N has two spades, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should be on as we have at least 4 spade winners.

Bridge Baron: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My hand is at the top of the range for this bid; nevertheless, it's within the range. Show the sixth spade and give partner a chance to decide among 3NT, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), or chickening out in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 18 total tricks. 10 tricks are more likely for our side than theirs, alas there's no way to find that out and pard is not barred from bidding 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

These panellists all (seem to) intend 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) as invitational. However, bear in mind that it's just a minimum bid of a suit that we've already shown. On the expert panel, Sartaj Hans pointed out that 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) isn't invitational. Sometimes we just want to play there with, for example, QJ10xxx-x-Kxxx-xx. With that in mind, can we be convinced that it's wise to go high instead?

Jacco Hop: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Bid what I think I can make - even opposite a small doubleton in spades we might still have a good chance

Ian McCance: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Good texture, hoping not to lose control

Michael Smart: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm not going to risk trying to land on a dime by being passed out in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), since this should have a good play opposite any minimum with a doubleton.

John R Mayne: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Let's pick off both strain and level without more partner cooperation, because anything that involves partner will misstate strength or shape. 

Peter Nuoristo: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). not much room to investigate, bid what I hope is playable

Jack Lai: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner at most 3 card Hearts, Spade should have some cards. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should be near

Martyn Rew: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner has to good for dropping at least a couple of losers here

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). restraining myself from a slam try. but opposite some minimums 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is possible

However, if we insist on forcing to game, we don't have to start with a 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bid. A minority view was that we should bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) - let's hear the rationale:

Anne Paul: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). 7 loser hand forcing to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 5 clubs gives partner a choice

Emil Battista: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Normally I would bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) in a trice, but I have promised Roger Yandle I would consider my bids a few milliseconds more. Not stopping short of game - rightly or wrongly

While I sympathize with the sentiment (forcing to game with uncertainty about strain), I'm not sure that 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is the way to do it. Three experts considered 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), but thought that partner wouldn't bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) when it was right often enough. And why should he? With no space below game, it's a punt. We could have as few as four spades, so with a hand like KQ-QJx-xx-KQJxxx, he may just bid the 'safe' 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

If we're not doing that maybe we should consider Double:

Rex Fox: Dbl. Doesn't look like pard is strong or got spade support. Double is more for penalties.

Dan Baker: Dbl. Extra values, can handle anything partner bids (and my defensive values won't disappoint if he passes). Will pass 3NT or bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over anything else.

I'm with Dan. I don't have many specific rules around this, but given that 1) it's only my second turn to act; 2) we're still well below game in either of our suits; and 3) they've found a fit, it seems that double should be takeout. (I'd also play double as takeout if RHO had bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)). Before we proceed, let's hear from some of those who rejected it:

Griff Ware: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Double could be the winner, but partner will gamble a pass on a bunch of hands where it turns out we belonged in spades.

Duncan Roe: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I'm sure I'd bid this at the table. Dbl has some attraction, but doesn't convey my spade strength to partner

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Over a double, partner might bid a minor, so 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) seems enough

Ron Landgraff: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Dbl leads to Clubs, Ugh! Or Diamonds, double Ugh! 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is not unreasonable, but watch out for pards wasted Heart values

It may (or may not) lead to clubs, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Partner will bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on all hands with three and some hands with two; and if he has fewer than two, he must have club length. Putting all of that together, if Partner bids clubs, we're in at least an 8-card fit. 

Roger Yandle: Dbl. the lure of +200 might be my undoing here if pard respond 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)!

Wayne Somerville: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). It's close to being a game force, but the possibility of partner being 1345 (if you don't open 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) with that) or 1336 is off-putting

I'm not sure why Wayne is worried about proceedings when partner is 1336: with that, we have a 9-card fit. I suspect that Wayne would have agreed with double if anyone had suggested it to him, as it solves all of these problems. One final point is that if partner bids clubs, that's not the end of the auction: we can still bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to suggest a contract. With a 1345, he'll (reluctantly) pass 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes); with 1336, he'll correct to 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Let's hear the comments of those who actually did double:

Deana Wilson: Dbl. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) has made it difficult. South has tolerance for every suit and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) isn't forcing.

Zbych Bednarek: Dbl. 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) would be an underbid

Brian Lawless: Dbl. We ought to be able to find a good resting place in Spades or Clubs. Too good for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) as that sounds to be competing only for the part score

Hans van Vooren: Dbl. Leaving open most options.

Julian Foster: Dbl. Seems the most flexible option. I wonder if my 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) showed 5 the first time (X being 4)?

The more that I look at this, the more I think of Goldilocks: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) it too high, 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is too low, but Double is just right. However, as always, I've been outvoted.

The full deal (from the NSWBA team selection event, which Fraser won by 43 VPs):

spades KQ
hearts J10
diamonds KJ105
clubs KJ1083
spades 862
hearts 98762
diamonds A92
clubs 94
spades 43
hearts AKQ43
diamonds 876
clubs Q76
spades AJ10975
hearts 5
diamonds Q43
clubs A52

In the 7-table final, four pairs played in 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), two in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and one in 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes).

Hand Two - South deals, nil vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) T7
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K94
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQ72
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) T643


West North East South
pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 1NT pass
pass 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) pass ?


Call Award %
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 100 44 18
Pass 90 25 29
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 19 14
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 60 13 2
3NT 20 0 26
3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 10 0 8
5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 10 0 2
First things first: what has partner shown? He has Double, 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), 2NT and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) also at his disposal. There was disappointingly little comment from the expert panel about what each of those bids shows. However, given that most experts were happy to make non-forcing below-game bids, it seems that they were expecting partner to double with a strong hand, even if he holds extreme shape - and they were unanimous that he has that, as he could bid 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with 5-5. The consensus was therefore that it should be at least 6-5. Even with that much agreement though, there was a wide range of answers, from Pass to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). However, all of them moved towards (or stayed in) a black suit. Nobody, however, raised the possibility that he might have 5 spades and 6 clubs. I like bidding my long suit first, but the world is moving towards bidding 5-card majors first.

Our readers had different ideas from the panel's: a third bid 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 3NT. Not many of those who did gave us their projected hand for partner; those who did thought that 5-5 was an acceptable shape. So there's a disconnect between the different expectations. 

However, the expert panel did all whereas a quarter of our panellists bid 3NT - so let's hear from the optimists first, starting with a few for our complaints department:

Wayne Somerville: 3NT. I would have doubled 1NT at MPs, now I suspect we have close to 9 top tricks.

Michael Smart: 3NT. Why the pessimism over 1NT!? Partner has shown great playing strength, but my kings aren't going to help much in a black suit contract.

Bridge Baron: 3NT. Why on earth did I pass last round? Do I not like defending doubled 1NT contracts when I knew, even before partner's 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bid, that our partnership had at least the majority of the strength in the deal? Anyway, even though partner didn't double and thus should have a hand that's at least fairly unbalanced, we don't seem to have found a fit yet, so as it happens, off to 3NT we go. With a freak, partner can correct to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as appropriate.

Of the expert panel, only Zia suggested the possibility of doubling 1NT. 

David Matthews: 3NT. I cannot pass but 5 Clubs is too far, so the only likely making game is 3NT. With all the points marked we should be able to bring this home.

Duncan Roe: 3NT. My clubs might give us 2 more tricks in a club contract, but the oppos might take 3 top ticks. Partner is showing 5-5 spades / clubs, so only 3 red cards. An overtrick in 3NT will beat 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), so go for 3NT

Ron Landgraff: 3NT. Nine easier than 11. Five clubs may fail with east having at least one spade stop.

Daniel Braun: 3NT. unsure here, Matchpoints is swinging me towards this bid

3NT is a better Matchpoints spot than 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) only if each contract makes an overtrick, which seems unlikely. There was one taker for 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) ... 

Ron Landgraff: 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I can't believe I did this at Matchpoints! But East's NT does not bode well for Spades. And where are the Hearts? With 26-27 combined points, we need to be in game. Would 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) be forcing? 

No, it wouldn't. Ron's obviously expecting a different hand from what others are expecting; but even opposite the 18-count that Ron's playing partner for, 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) should probably be only invitational. However, given partner's extreme shape, 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) seems more likely to make than 3NT, and if it goes off it may well go less off, as the opponents can run only so many red-suit tricks before we can ruff in.

A few panellists started to reconstruct North's hand, but slightly different expectations led to very different bids:

Robert Black: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Not certain we have a game. In 3NT, for example, I would not fancy a heart lead.

Dan Baker: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Lack of a transfer by West suggests that partner's shape is 5-2-1-5, with hearts splitting 4-4. Even so, with a heart lead I need running clubs and S AK (or help in hearts or the images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) A) to make 3NT. Honors in partner's short suits aren't too useful. Will try for 140 instead of 130; I'd pass at IMPs.

Roger Yandle: 3NT. it looks like pard has got a heart fragment since W hasn't spoken so hopefully it's something useful. Even if it's not then with hearts 4-4 3NT stands a good chance.

Although others didn't elaborate on partner's expected shape, they seem to be thinking along the same lines as Roger. As noted above, there seems to be a difference in expectations about what 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) shows. If Hearts are 4-4, partner must be 5305. this means that unless both black suits are solid, they'll take at least three hearts, the diamond Ace and a black suit trick unless both suits are solid. However with (for example) AKQxx-xxx-void-AKQxx, wouldn't partner have doubled 1NT? And if partner has that much, what is left for the 1NT bid?

So if not 3NT, maybe another bid that the experts overlooked:

John R Mayne: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) must show a cooperative punt with diamond values. Given that, it's got to be right. Passers should be executed. [That's my Dad you're talking about, John - FR].

Brian Lawless: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I want to double 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to show a good hand but I don't think that is allowed even in Australia. [That's surprising respect for the rules for someone called Lawless. I'll change your answer to Double, Brian, and give you 101 points for it]. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is an under-bid as is 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Let's show some values using a new suit as forcing. I will raise 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). If pard bids 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), 3NT is an option

Anne Paul: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Just showing a stopper on the way to 3NT

Julian Foster: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Sounds like partner has a lot of black cards so 3NT (my 1st instinct) is probably too dangerous on a (likely) images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) lead. Hope this is stopper showing so partner can bid 3NT if he does stop Hs. Otherwise heading for 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I can't have a weak hand with long images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)s or I'd have bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) the 1st time. But I can't have much more than I have got or I'd have doubled the 1st time.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). suggesting 3NT (I cannot have the long diamonds as I would have bid them before), but 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) may be safer; but this is mp. will raise 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) to 4.

Tim Trahair: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We have the majority of the HCP and N has reversed. 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) shows him we have strength in images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)s and reasonable HCP enabling him to go to 3NT with a good images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) stopper or to try 4th suit forcing if not.

These panellists were thinking along similar lines to the 3NT bidders, but realised that we may need partner's co-operation. Taking the slow road to 3NT won't make that contract any better, but at least it gives partner a chance to pull to 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) when it's right. However, it doesn't give partner information about black suit length (better clubs but definite spade tolerance, opposite the expected 6-card suit) that may be crucial for deciding between 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), so even if we're not bidding 3NT, we are only slightly better placed than those who bid it directly.

That's also assuming that partner is on the same wavelength about the meaning of 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If he had bid 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) by us would clearly be non-forcing with long diamonds. Does showing a distributional hand commit us to playing in opener's suit(s)? I wouldn't have thought so. How would we bid with x-xxxx-J109xxxx-x? Maybe we'd bid 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) over 1NT, but might be worried about bidding on a possibly-misfitting 1-count, when partner can easily get carried away. I doubt that many pairs would have discussed what's a fairly specialised auction.

Amongst the experts, fully a quarter thought that we are already high enough, and these readers agree:

Rex Fox: Pass. Looks like too many losers, get a plus. Pard could have AKxxxx x x AQJxx still game is dicey. Our K's not much value

Rex's example hand looks to be about normal in terms of high card strength. But where are all the Hearts? Surely 6-2-0-5 is more likely than 6-1-1-5 when they're not bidding that suit. 

Griff Ware: Pass. Sounds like doubling 1NT was a winner here. Now the question is: can we make game? 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is very doubtful given we have no points in partner's suits and no aces. If partner is 6-5 we might be making 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), but again that's a stretch. I expect a heart lead against 3NT to set up enough defensive tricks for the opponents, and any black cards they have are sitting over partner. So I think the likelihood of making game is low, and this is MP.

Martyn Rew: Pass. East's spade stoppers over partner makes spades and NT look unattractive places to play.

Emil Battista: Pass. I am treating my RHO with respect. Some 1NT overcallers I would treat with disdain

Phil Hocking: Pass. Easts bid shows 15-18 HCP and I assume a spade stopper so may have either the A and/or K in spades. That leaves at best 22-25 our way. Partner has at best 18HCP. Sounds like 9-10 tricks in clubs or 8-9 in spades. Show suit preference.

Peter Paton: Pass. Can't see myself being of any help.

The alliterative Peter, and others in this group, are all correct, but no one other than Griff noted that we're playing Matchpoints here. Obviously +110 in 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) when the room is -50 in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) will be huge, as will +130 vs +110. But going +110 or +130 in 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) won't be worth much if the room is making +140 for playing in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Most of the 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders believe that the second scenario is more likely than the first - can they convince the rest of us?

Alex Kemeny: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner should have 6-4 or 6-5. With 5-5 black suits it is much better to open 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) then bid spades twice, or rebid 2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) when holding reversing values.

It was once very popular to open 1images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) with 5-5 in the blacks, and the idea has a lot of merit, but that is now much less popular than once it was.

Michael Burt: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) should make fairly easily and 3NT is likely to go off. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may be difficult to make with the 1NT overcall. We'll probably just get home in 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and it should score better than 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Peter Robinson: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). In view of East's bid, North must be partly acting on shape, but the more shape he has, the more likely that my hand is a pseudo-Yarborough. Since East is likely to have at least 3 defensive tricks (S: Kx plus 2 aces), the eleven-trick contract is out. If East also has images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes): Qxx, 9 tricks may be the limit, but I can probably just afford 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes),since my images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K holds up the force.

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Partner can have KQxxxx-xx-void-AKJxx [On that layout, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) makes if we can hold our Spade losers to two and the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q drops. That sounds like a poor spot, but given the opponents' silence, suits are likely to be breaking well so it should actually have a good play - FR]. Good support for partner. 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) seems far away. With better spades, you might have raised on the previous round. Your red honours have limited value. If partner has his bids then South is probably seeing red. 

Ian McCance: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Only because it's MPs. My red cards should protect partner from being tapped out

Tania Black (with HA de Jong similarly): 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Probably as many tricks in Spades as in Clubs.

It's good that these panellists recognised that 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is just preference, and doesn't show desire to go any higher. Some, however, did want to encourage partner - after all, we have an 8-count and four-card support, neither of which we've shown

Jack Lai: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) might not be good as both red suit hold Ks instead of As. Try invite and wait for partner decision

Kees Schaafsma: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Constructive. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is not forcing (2NT is), 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) already shows a 5-5 in my book so I can't afford to pass. 

Peter Nuoristo: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). or 5 clubs, but my guess is that p will not stop below 5 clubs

Rainer Herrmann: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner could have AKxxxx-xx-void-KQJxx or more and game is quite reasonable. 

Jacco Hop: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). We have enough to justify bidding one more. Partner might have Something like AJ9xxx-xx-void-KQJxx and with this type of hand he didn't want them to come in cheap.

Conny Wahlgren: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Partner is not kidding. Both kings could be extremely valuable and East is on lead. Pass is for cowards.

Finally, a few wanted to bid game directly

Damo Nair: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Another MP bid. The 8 HCP appear wasted. Still, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) should have a reasonable chance. N did see my pass over 1NT.

This did get some support from the experts, and does seem like our most likely game. But if partner's spades are any good, he should try 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), so it seems that 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) covers off both options. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) won the Expert vote, and although it was third in the readers' poll, its proponents put forward a better case than any other group did.

Hand Three - West deals, EW vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQT974
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) K54
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) T72
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) J


West North East South
pass 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 2NT * pass ?

2NT is 18-19 balanced.

Call Award %
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 100 44 14
3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 85 38 30
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 80 13 11
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 90 6 20
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 70 0 18
4NT 0 0 2
3NT 0 0 2
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 70 0 2
Other 0 0 3
We definitely have a fit in Hearts, and probably have one in Spades (unless partner is the sort to try 2NT on a hand like x-AQJxx-AKQ-Qxxx). Even a singleton Spade honour would be enough. So we need to set Hearts, set Spades or give the choice to partner. We also need to work out the right level: slam might be excellent (Axx-AQxxx-AKQ-xx) or game might be dreadful (Jx-AQJ10x-Jxx-AKQ), though obviously nobody would be pessimistic enough to stop short of game - this is the Bidding Forum, not the Master Solvers Club.

We'll start with the optimists:

Zbych Bednarek: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Autosplinter (on Spades), looking for a Diamond cue bid. The hand is worth slam try if partner has nothing in clubs - a hand like images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)Ax, images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)AQ, images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A.

Anne Paul: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Shows shortage in clubs gives partner a choice to go on to 6 or 7 in suit of his choice

Phil Hocking: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Splinter bid expecting partner may have to devalue club honours and stopping in 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)

Hmmm ... three possibilities for what suit we're playing. Luckily, we have an expert panel to help us resolve the meaning, so I checked what the two 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders had to say about the bid's meaning:

Matthew Thomson: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). In AB standard 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is forcing so 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) must be a "self splinter" for spades.

Patrick Huang: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Splinter for Hearts, I hope. 

No help, there, then. What do the other 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) bidders say?

Martyn Rew: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). The double fit in the majors makes 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) look very gettable. 7images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is there with the right 18-19 points.

When I said optimists, I meant it.

Tania Black: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Gerber. I feel lucky!

Well ... you're lucky to be getting the same score for 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as those who agreed with the expert panellists that it's a splinter.

However, most panellists, both readers and experts, set their sights lower. Let's see what they have to say:

Deana Wilson: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Game force check back partner shows spade support or suits up the line. 6 of a major could be on.

This isn't a standard treatment, at least not where I come from. Over a 1NT rebid, 2images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is invitational and 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is game forcing. But it's a lot easier just playing that any bid over 2NT is game forcing , so 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is the only checkback that you need. That means incidentally, that if you want to make a forcing bid to show heart support or extra spade length, 3M is fine. This should assuage the fears of ... 

Ian McCance: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if it's forcing, but maybe 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) ok

Brian Lawless: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). My preferred style is that both 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) are forcing but my partner (Australian experience) does not agree! Less danger of a bad trump break spoiling things in S so 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) it has to be. Could be missing a good slam because of a system defect.

Jacco Hop: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). The notes don't specify the follow up and 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) could be Non forcing? With such a strong spade suit I think it is pretty likely that will gain us a trick more than playing in hearts lets say partner has xx AJxxx AQx AKx And that is a hand with xx in spades change the jack of hearts for the Jack of spades and we are close to 6 spades and likely only 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes).

Damo Nair: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I'm assuming 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is 100% forcing.

John R Mayne: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I plan to later correct to spades, but I want an unequivocally forcing bid [John's a demanding guy - keep reading. FR] . Is 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) forcing in AB standard? 

Some, however, were happy to sign off anyway, such as:

Barbara Hunter: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Not sure if this is right

Conny Wahlgren: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Hmm?

Ron Landgraff: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Can I bid 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and then "oops!" and correct to 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)? Would Papa the Greek get away with it? [Sarcasm doesn't always come through online, but Ron's tongue is firmly in his cheek - FR]

This group is far from certain about strain, so maybe they should start a level lower.

Alex Kemeny: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Close between this and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). I am weaker so it may play better in S but against that, 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) may protect partner from a diamond lead. 

Gary Lane: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) is check back asking for 3 card spade support I want to change my bid to 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes).

Tim Trahair: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). It looks as if we have an 8 card fit in both majors but probably not enough for slam. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) is tempting although it is better if the strong hand plays the contract.

Bridge Baron: 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Would have made a limit raise to 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) last round. As it is, my ruffing value in clubs versus partner's probable lack of side-suit shortness points to game in hearts rather than spades.

David Matthews: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Lots of thoughts on this one. Do I support partner or rebid my Spades? Is 3 images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)pades forcing on this action? If so that would be my bid. I certainly do not want partner to pass a 3 Spade bid so I must bid 4 Hearts or 4 Spades. If partner was 1534 or 1543 then he would jump rebid in the minor. Its looking more than likely that he is 2533. So the best contract is likely to be in my 6 card suit. 

Rex Fox: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Seems the sensible contract. Bit wimpish to bid anything less

Duncan Roe: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Was thinking of 3NT (this is Matchpoints after all) but oppos might manage to run a long unbid suit. The trump contract guards against that

Roger Yandle: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). with a double fit slam might be on but at MPs I'm settling for game.

One panellist used a home-grown Stayman variant to find the best spot. While it seems like a good method, it's not part of AB Standard.

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). methods? In my regular partnership I would now bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) establishing a game force for the majors (3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-answer = 3-5 majors; 3NT denies 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and good images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)). then a 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) -cuebid (short as I promise at least 8 cards in the majors) would invite partner to judge whether we belong in slam.

However, the majority of experts, and about half the readers, opted for the slow road - some for 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), some for 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and one more subtle approach ...

Griff Ware: 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). We have a decent slam if partner has images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A, images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)AQ and images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)A, and that's only 14 HCP. Although the chance of slam it not great, it will be much higher if partner has no images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) wastage. So I intend to lie about my shape a little in order to emphasise my images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) shortage: I'm bidding 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and then, if partner does not bid 3NT, I'll bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) on the next round, showing a mild slam try with 5-3-4-1 or similar. At MPs, it will be an interesting problem if partner bids 3NT over 3images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), since 3NT might now be the highest scoring spot … but it will be a guess.

As for the others, all chose 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) although. Disappointingly, few of the 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders gave reasons as to their choice of suit, but these two were exceptions ... 

Wayne Somerville: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Partner will know about our spade length from our failure to raise the first time.

Julian Foster: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Seems obvious. This surely must be forcing. If I was so weak as to only take 1 bid I'd have raised images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)s the 1st time. 

I'm not sure that I agree with Wayne and Julian's reasoning. Sometimes, we just need partner to know where our length is so that he can place the contract later.

Nigel Guthrie: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Ax AJxxx KJx AQx Difficult bid because spades is likely to be the better strain [So why not bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)? - FR].

Hans van Vooren: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Forcing, in my book. No reason to bid like this with a weak hand. Now partner knows about the fit and the second source of tricks and can cooperate intelligently in a slam try.

Daniel Braun: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). Help a brother out.

That was our youth contingent, just in case you missed it.

Peter Robinson: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). I can see how some would regard spades as the best trump suit, but we know the KQ are working in any contract, so I'll encourage a little cooperation. 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) is forcing, of course.

Michael Smart: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). If I bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and partner bids 3NT, 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) may then be taken as a simple correction without slam interest...whereas 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) immediately implies slam aspirations (since 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) immediately would be weaker). Note that the spade suit isn't necessarily lost: if partner cues images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A en route to slam, I can correct to 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)

Jack Lai: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). See whether partner could cue bid and decide whether to go to slam

Robert Black: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We have a double fit and a game forcing auction, so I go slowly.

Michael Burt: 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes). We should score more tricks in hearts than in no trumps and at Matchpoints that is better. The delayed rise in hearts indicates a better than minimum hand and so we should at least end up in game. Slam is a possibility although it is probably not on. The 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bid keeps options open.

The 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) bidders didn't all give a reason, such as ... 

HA de Jong (and Pravin Nahar similarly): 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Forcing after 2NT

Emil Battista: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Let's see what response this elicits. 

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Setting hearts because of the singleton club seems illusive.

Rainer Herrmann: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Bid where you live. If North raises you are done If North bids 3NT you can show describe your hand well with 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) And if North cue-bids you can show your crucial king of hearts without going beyond game. 

Dan Baker: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Entries to use the long spades could be problematic in hearts (Jx AQJxx AQx Axx with a club lead), so I pick spades. Slam or even grand could be on if partner has something like Axx AQxxx Ax Axx.

Ron Landgraff: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Even opposite a doubleton, Spades may play better. I fear the Spades may set up in Hearts, but can he get to them? If pard has Spades we are off to the races!

Although fewer readers bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes), they seem to have given more consideration to strain than the 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders. Dan's concerns above echoed those of the expert panel, who thought that the weaker hand's long suit should be trumps.

The full deal is on page 13 of our April magazine. -- BC  

Hand Four - West deals, nil vul, IMPs. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) KQT8
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) QJ4
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) KQJ
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) K92


West North East South
pass 1images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass 1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)
pass 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) pass ?


Call Award %
3NT 100 75 74
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 60 13 11
2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 50 6 3
2NT 20 6 2
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 70 0 3
4NT 20 0 2
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 20 0 2
6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 1
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 20 0 1
This problem misfired a little, as a vast majority of both readers and experts opted for the obvious 3NT. One of the readers made an optimistic slam try:

Barbara Hunter: 4NT. Let's see if partner has 3 Aces.

A few of the 3NT bidders noted that three Aces may not be enough to make slam, given our lack of tricks, and the fact that partner is unlikely to have any more, given that he could rebid only 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Everyone else jumped, but most jumped to 3NT. The outliers were ... 

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If partner doesn't cue hearts I stop in 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). But I cannot disregard the slam-chances opposite the minimum-opener with three aces and 6+ diamonds. 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as art GF would help here.

Michael Smart: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Please cue (1st or 2nd, hopefully). Irrespective of cue style, partner will always proceed to slam holding 3 bullets.

Wayne Somerville: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). This is somewhat dependent on agreements in the consequent auction. If I bid 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), we can never get to 4NT when it's right (xx Ax Axxxxx QJx), but we rate to be fine anyway. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) will pretty much ensure we get to 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) when partner has 3 aces and some form of heart control once we start cuebidding.

 ... and ... 

Duncan Roe: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner has bid diamonds twice missing KQJ. He figures to have a whole lot of them, so the diamond game is the obvious choice.

Surely it makes more sense to look at our own hand rather than project partner's? 4333 argues for a 3NT bid. There's not much to choose between the two: although the chances of slam are slim, it could make, so 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would be better; however, bidding slowly my help the defence to lead a club through the King, for example.

However, while most acknowledged that slam could make, they thought that the chances were remote enough to just sign off, and thought that 4333 argued for a 3NT bid. 

Daniel Braun: 3NT. partner needs 3 aces for slam. he can't also have a king. so the best possible hand is something like AJ-Ax-Axxxxxx-xx. No hand with 6 diamonds has a good slam.

Our resident Australian representative wasn't slightly confident that slam would be no play ... 

Griff Ware: 3NT. Giving up the slam when partner holds 3 Aces and the images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)K: in that situation partner probably should have done more (perhaps opening 1NT off-shape). Otherwise, the chance of slam usually requires a singleton heart, and it's all too hard without some artificial gadgetry to find that out - also partner's unlikely to cooperate with any tries holding empty diamonds.

The others angled for 3NT, or bid it directly. First, let's hear quickly from the minority. Unfortunately, none of the 2images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) bidders commented, so we'll start with those who bid 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) - some angling for 3NT and some for 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes):

Damo Nair: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). 3NT looks a bit unilateral. Keeping it open, 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) could be right. Or even 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) on a 4-3 fit.

Phil Hocking: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). A good fit in diamonds with likely shortages but not 4 aces or 3 aces and a king. a 2 bid is too weak. Does 4NT finding 2 aces have us over-bidding? 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) at least forcing for one round. 

Julian Foster: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Downside of this it is implies 5images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) but if partner bids 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (or if he bids 3NT) I can make a try with 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If he does something else then we can head towards 5 or 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) (which is cold opposite as little as Axx x A10xxxx AQx, hence I think I'm too good to just bid 3NT over 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes))

John R Mayne: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Dreadful. We belong in something between 3N and 7images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) inclusive. I want 4NT natural available, because I want to bid that. I don't think it is. Blergh. [No, not this one. Keep reading. FR]

Brian Lawless: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Forcing but not promising 5 spades. Several possible outcomes here.

Dan Baker: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). I need to know if partner has a heart honor. If he does, he'll bid 3NT here and I can ask for aces. If he doesn't, 3NT is probably right, although the perfect hand with a singleton heart (AJx x Axxxxx Axx) makes 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes).

Kees Schaafsma: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Now pard can bid any hand and I can cope with any sequel. Hope springs eternally.

Conny Wahlgren: 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). or 3 NT, or 4 images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), or 3 images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) if its forcing or 4 NT if partner has 3 aces or....

However, most noted the honours in every suit and the fact that we may make 3NT on brute strength, and eschewed subtlety for the obvious bid. This makes sense to me, as 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) seems to suggest Heart weakness - and there's no reason to think that Clubs, rather than Hearts, will be the problem. A quick survey of the 3NT bidders' rationales:

Alex Kemeny: 3NT. Especially at Matchpoints [it's actually imps - FR] 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) seems too remote

Michael Burt: 3NT. Good points but bad shape. My partner is a minimum and slam is probably not there. Settle for game.

Peter Robinson: 3NT. I don't get it. If I'm forced to play a system where a one-over-one may show 17+ points, surely the system tells me what to do with a balanced 17-count. If not, I'm sanguine about 3NT. The real problem arises when the balanced 17-count contains a bare suit that could be facing a singleton.

It's not that common to pick up 17-counts, and we can fudge those anyway, so the system deals with hands that we might otherwise struggle to bid.

Jacco Hop: 3NT. I would like to bid 2NT Forcing to ask for x-ton however that is not standard so not sure if I can find out if he has AJx x Axxxx Axx or something like Jxx Axx Axxxxx J where 3NT is not cold and 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is.

Tim Trahair: 3NT. Possibly there is a slam in Diamonds on, but if so, how to find it? North is not showing much more than an opening hand and 6 + images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)s. If NT is where we should be, then seems better to be played by the S hand.

We could look, but that would go past 3NT - and a couple of panellists lamented our lack of system ...

Tania Black: 3NT. If we had minorwood [i.e., 4 of the agreed minor is Roman Key Card - FR] I might have tried 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), as 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) will not lose many IMPimages/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) if 3NT makes an overtrick or two.

David Matthews: 3NT. Some soft points here so I will just bid game rather than chase an unlikely slam. Unfortunately using Minor Suit Key Card will take us past the likely best game of 3NT.

The rest were just not tempted:

Nigel Guthrie (with Robert Black, Ron Landgraff, Hans van Vooren, Emil Battista and Martyn Rew similarly): 3NT. With no aces, 3N should be the limit of our ambition.

Roger Yandle: 3NT. my hand looks better than it is (no aces, lots of Qs & Js) and I can't see any way to a sensible diamond slam if its on, so I'm settling for 3NT.

Rainer Herrmann: 3NT. I am not tempted with this rubbish.

Rex Fox: 3NT. Not liking it that much, but cannot find enough excuses for anything less

Ian McCance: 3NT. painted into a corner but shape discourages

Last word goes to the computer:

Bridge Baron: 3NT. Wins a simulation over 6NT easily, +457 to -172.5.

The full deal:

spades AJ9
hearts 6
diamonds A108752
clubs A75
spades 652
hearts K10953
diamonds 93
clubs 864
spades 743
hearts A872
diamonds 64
clubs QJ103
spades KQ108
hearts QJ4
diamonds KQJ
clubs K92

We can make 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 6images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (which may have been biddable if North had raised the spades. At the table only two pairs bid slam, and one of those was 6NT (making).

Hand Five - North deals, both vul, Matchpoints. You are South.
images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 83
images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) AK
images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) AKT9873
images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) KJ

West North East South
  1images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) pass 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)
3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) pass ?


Call Award %
4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 100 69 30
3NT 95 19 19
3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 80 6 5
4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) 70 6 15
4NT 0 0 16
6NT 0 0 6
5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 3
4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) 0 0 2
6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) 0 0 2
6images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 1
4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) 0 0 1
Another problem that misfired somewhat - but only on the experts' panel. Although 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) was a clear majority for that panel, less than a third of readers made the bid. (I disagree with Fraser's term "misfired". My first goal in choosing problems is to find hands where the experts and readers don't agree -- these are the hands that require the most attention. -- BC) As ever, the first problem is to work out who has shown what. Although 2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) isn't game forcing, it's at least invitational. Partner's voluntary 3-level bid shows extras, which therefore commits us to game (a similar auction is, uncontested, 1images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes)-2images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)-2images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)). So we don't need to worry about 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) or 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) being passed out.

Also, what shape does partner have? Not all panellists expressed a view; the experts who did thought 5-5 likely, but some of the readers opined that 5-4 would be enough. First, let's look at the pessimistic group ... 

Michael Burt: 3NT. Fantastic hand and partner has points and shape but west almost certainly has Ace and Queen of clubs sitting behind my hand. Given north and west's bidding there are likely to be bad breaks in diamonds and possibly spades and hearts. Slam is may well not be a great proposition. 3NT has a good chance of making and the lead will be coming round to me. In the very unlikely event east has Ace spades, west still has to find that lead. 3NT could well outscore heart and spade contracts.

Julian Foster: 3NT. Feels like partner has shape here (with only 54xx there's a chance he'd X). So he may not be that strong and we don't have an obvious fit. Hence I'll go conservative. If images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes)s run then we probably want to play 6NT from my side. 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) would find that out - if partner raises then you can try 6NT. Trouble is if he can't raise you can't get back to playing 4NT from your hand and are likely to end in 4M with the lead coming through your images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)s - which will be bad at Matchpoints.

Rainer Herrmann: 3NT. Hamman's rule

Ian McCance: 3NT. Hardest of all in a difficult set. If partner has anything useful in diamonds I've missed a slam. I don't think we should play in a major with images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)KJ exposed.

Nigel Guthrie: 3NT. But is 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) forcing? and what does 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) mean?

Roger Yandle: 3NT. slam could well be on in lots of different strains but the pre-empt has jammed us for space so I'm bidding what I think will make.

Wayne Somerville: 3NT. Very pessimistic, but I feel we need to be playing this to protect the lead, and 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) is gambling too much on us finding a fit there.

There was a minority who wanted to sign off in another game:

Tania Black: 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I can probably stand a Club lead. And if Diamonds are 7-2-2-2, like my shape, it looks to make!

With a good portion of the panel moving slamwards, Tania's obviously not feeling so lucky any more ... 

Anne Paul: 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). not sure what else to do with 2 losers in clubs but 5 losers so have to be in game. Alternative bid 3NT and hope diamonds break

I get that 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) or 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) will sometimes be the right spot, but why must we commit to that now? 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) and 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) are both forcing, and let partner help decide on both correct strain and correct level. I have similar concerns about the 3NT bid: it could well be right, but signing off when we don't know what level or strain is right doesn't seem right to me. As such, a majority of readers opted for bids with more flexibility - and, as always on strong hands, there were a few takers for both 4NT and 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes):

Tim Trahair: 4NT. N has reversed and we have 18HCP, so slam should be on somewhere. In a recent BF, moderator was doubtful about using 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) Exclusion Blackwood because there had been no suit agreement and N might not know how to respond. This comment puzzled me as I would expect an expert pair to have worked out how to respond to a slam enquiry when there has been no suit agreement. Usually I base the KC enquiry on the last bid suit but others make it simply an A ask. If the best home is NT it may be better if played by S to protect the images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) king - unless N turns up with the club ace!

This is scary - someone treating me as a reference. In that case, I'll have to start watching what I say. Yes, I did say that (and stand by it), and yes, a strong partnership should know what all of its bids mean. But Bidding Forum is about what you'd do with a basic system and good partner, not what you'd like your ideal system to be.

Emil Battista: 4NT. Again, let's see what response this elicits before we commit our side to an un-making slam.

Martyn Rew: 4NT. Diamond slam should be on here. Any key cards shown will not include hearts. Safer played by South with a club lead expected.

Bridge Baron: 4NT. If partner has no keycards, headed to 5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes); if one, headed to 6NT; if two, headed to 7NT regardless of the heart queen and the spade king. 

Phil Hocking: 4NT. Partner shows a strong 2 suiter. At best 13 HCP in hearts and spades and West hopefully has ace queen in clubs so partner may have queen (jack) in diamonds. Two other entries to cash all the diamonds so 6NT sounds possible.

Barbara Hunter: 4NT. Planning to be in 6NT

As on many other deals, we need to know a lot more than how many Aces partner has. Even if he has one, the right contract could be anything from 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) to 6NT. So maybe, with so much ambiguity as to strain, 4NT shouldn't be Blackwood at all.

Griff Ware: 4NT. This should be quantitative: I can bid 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) (forcing) to agree S, 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) to agree images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes), and 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) to show more diamonds. The quant 4NT is certainly not the most descriptive bid available, and could get us to a bad spot a bunch of the time. But it's MPs, and 4NT is the only bid that keeps NT in the picture while also making a slam try.

As I said, I like the sentiment and I think you can make a strong case that that's how 4NT should be played - I'm just not sure that that's how 4NT is played, at least by the majority of experts.

We had one panellist who took an even slower approach to making a quantitative bid: 

Zbych Bednarek: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Partner has 5-5-(2-1). With short clubs he should bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes), after which I'll bid slam. With short Diamonds he should bid 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) or 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes) over 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes); after that 4NT from me should be to play (Matchpoints scoring!!!) 

Some eschewed the subtle approach entirely and just bid what they thought they could make.

Alex Kemeny: 6NT. Assuming W has images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A, images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)Q then there are only 4 HCP or less missing. There are lots of ways we can run 12 tricks especially on images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)A lead, (west not wanting to concede an over trick).

HA de Jong: 6NT. Very tough, but expect pard to have something like AQJxxx,QJxxx,x,x.or similar. The 3images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) intervention stopped us from a proper dialogue.

This seems optimistic to me. It's likely that Hearts will run, but Diamonds and Spades are much less likely, and once they've knocked our images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes)K, we're going to need 12 fast tricks to make slam. However, I admit that I prefer it to the plan of bidding 4NT and then 6NT: Partner's a heavy favourite to hold the images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)A; once he shows a key card, we're bidding slam anyway, and if we bid it directly it may make the defence more difficult. However ... will 6NT make at all? There's a lot of bidding going on, so partner is likely to have a shapely hand.

It seems that 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes), whatever it shows, always gets a few takers on slammish hands, and this deal was no exception. Let's see what the proponents say about it - both the meaning and the rationale behind bidding it.

Peter Robinson: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Again, I'd prefer to show this rock-crusher on the first round, but 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) now is OK. If partner shows diamond support, 6NT is a good punt – what could partner have for his free bid except great spades? If he persists with the majors, the anti-positional clubs and lack of running suits will be a wet blanket. Can't see 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) here as forcing. What else can I do with a moderate hand that can't stand the majors?

Dan Baker: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Give partner room to tell me something. Would love to hear 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) from partner with 5-5-2-1, honor doubleton. May be important for me to declare to avoid a club lead through.

Kees Schaafsma: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). Maybe I'll hear 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Nice set of problems.

Ron Landgraff: 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes). This will torture partner, but I need more information. 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes),4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes),5images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) and 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes) are all possible. Even NT is still possible. If he reads 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) as a first round control, he may (perhaps justifiably) look for a new partner.

So it seems that these panellists all intend it as a general force. 4images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) got only one vote from the experts, which was on the assumption that it's a general force. Two others, Klinger and Kokish, mentioned it, but believe that it would be a slam try agreeing Hearts, which probably explains the lack of official support.

A small minority opted to show false preference ... 

Robert Black: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Another game forcing auction, surely, but in what? Spades Hearts Diamonds or NT are still possible.

Rex Fox: 3images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes). Cannot see a great future, get a plus if that's at all possible

This bid is growing on me. Showing preference can often get us to the best fit (6-2, or even sometimes 5-2), especially as the Spade game is a level lower, and partner's likely to have a singleton Diamond. However, the bid also has its flaws: it wrongsides the Clubs, and greatly reduces our chances of reaching the most likely slam, namely 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). On, then, to the expert panel's preferred bid:

Jacco Hop: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 7card suits can be rebid.

Damo Nair: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Even at MPs I cannot bring myself to bid 3NT. Don't need much from N for a slam.

David Matthews: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I am interested in slam and this is Minor Suit Key Card in my system. Playing the hand also protects my King of Clubs. So long as partner has the required Key Cards we should be safe for 6NT at least. The worst outcome would be having to play in 5 Diamonds when 3NT is good for at least 11 tricks. 

Michael Smart: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). If 2/1 wasn't GF, then partner's free bid of 3images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) committed us to game. That allows me to bid a forcing 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) next round.

Duncan Roe: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Slam could be on, but we haven't agreed a suit yet. Show a strong hand with diamonds

Daniel Braun: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). slammmm

Ig Nieuwenhuis: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). this should be forcing, 4m in this sequence to play is too small a target to aim for. I'm trying to find 6images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Risky if partner has (very) short diamonds. Alternative is the heart fit if partner now bids 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) that is probably a better contract

Brian Lawless: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). Why aren't we playing strong jump shifts? That would prevent this problem arising. Partner must realise that I have a very strong single suited hand. I will bid 5images/clubsm.gif (113 bytes) over both 4images/heartsm.gif (112 bytes) and 4images/spadesm.gif (111 bytes)

Maybe this would have been better as a two-part problem, because, as on the expert panel, there was a wide range of views about what to bid next: some were happy to sign off in game; others were driving to slam, and some were looking to invite and leave the decision to partner. 

And that's us for another month. Next time you read this, the days will be warmer, the nights longer. If you happen to be playing in the ANC, come up and say hi. I'll leave you with the thoughts of a hard man to please:

John R Mayne: 4images/diamondsm.gif (109 bytes). I want to right-side this, and I want partner to have diamond support. And I want a pony. A nice pony, not one of those angry biting ponies. Sorry, drifted off. Good set of problems this month!

John, I give out two things: ponies and strident criticism. Unfortunately, I'm all out of ponies. 

The full deal:

spades AKQJ97
hearts 109642
diamonds 2
clubs 3
spades 65
hearts Q7
diamonds QJ
clubs AQ98754
spades 1042
hearts J853
diamonds 654
clubs 1062
spades 83
hearts AK
diamonds AK109873
clubs KJ

The correct Matchpoint spot is 3NT or 4NT by North. Half the field bid 6NT, making on the lucky layout.

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Top scores for June
1Brad Johnston NZL500
2Jacco Hop NED490
3David Graham NSW475
4Tom Estenson USA475
5Kajsa Fröjd SWE475
6Hans Van Vooren NED475
7Geof Brod USA475
8Sid Ismail RSA475
9Leigh Blizzard Tas470
10Peter Nuoristo SWE470
11Pravin Nahar NSW470
12Sonny Schultz 470
13Tony Treloar Qld470
14Rainer Herrmann GER465
15Pär Ol-måtrs 465
16Ian Mccance Vic465
17Alpay Ari 465
18Zbych Bednarek POL460
20Fredrik Jarlvik SWE455
21Rex Fox Vic450
22Nigel Kearney NZL450
23Pat O'Connor NSW450
24Manuel Paulo POR450
25Rick Lu NSW445
26Gary Lane NSW440
27Dominic Connolly NSW440
28Nigel Guthrie GBR430
29John Newman NSW430
30Michael Burt ACT430
31Peter Tarlinton NSW425
32Andrew Macalister GBR425
33Alexander Cook NSW420
34Bjarne Andersen DEN415
35Trish Whitton 415
36Robert Black SA415
37Niek Van Vucht ACT415
38Charles Scholl USA410
39Dean Pokorny 410
40David Kalnins NSW410
41Bruce Ballard NZL410
42Gary Hyett GBR405
43Peter Robinson Qld405
44Kees Schaafsma NED400
45Dan Baker USA400
46Jim Greer GBR395
47Roger Yandle NSW395
48Malcolm Ewashkiw CAN385
49Alan Jones Qld385
50Jack Lai 385
51Peter Jeffery NSW380
52Kay O'connor NSW380
53Toby Weinstein USA380
54Ian Patterson Qld380
55David Matthews WA380
56Henri De Jong Vic380
57Fi Nadir CAN380
58Daniel Braun 375
59Rick Giles USA375
60Michael Smart ACT375
61Denis Upsall Vic375
62Damo Nair USA375
63 Barry Teeger375
64Martyn Rew NZL370
65Sam Arber Vic370
66Leigh Matheson NSW370
67Denis Haynes ACT365
68Mark Laforge 360
70Alan Boyce Qld360
71John R Mayne USA355
72David Johnson 355
73Arthur Porter SA355

Leading scores for 2015
1Geof Brod USA1425
2Ian Mccance Vic1395
3Jacco Hop NED1390
4Kajsa Fröjd SWE1385
5Roger Yandle NSW1355
6Fredrik Jarlvik SWE1355
7David Matthews WA1330
8Peter Nuoristo SWE1330
9Andrew Macalister GBR1325
10David Kalnins NSW1320
11Gary Lane NSW1320
12Tom Estenson USA1305
13Tony Treloar Qld1290
14Dean Pokorny 1280
15Rainer Herrmann GER1275
16Damo Nair USA1275
17Peter Jeffery NSW1270
18Henri De Jong Vic1270
19Peter Robinson Qld1262
20Bastiaan Korner NED1260
21Nigel Guthrie GBR1260
22John Newman NSW1250
23Zbych Bednarek POL1250
24Pravin Nahar NSW1240
25Malcolm Ewashkiw CAN1235
26Charles Scholl USA1230
27Michael Burt ACT1230
28Jack Lai 1225
29David Woulds GBR1225
30Peter Stride Qld1220
31Brad Johnston NZL1220
32Gary Hyett GBR1215
33Kay O'connor NSW1200
34Dominic Connolly NSW1200
35Hans Van Vooren NED1195
36Kees Schaafsma NED1180
37Leigh Blizzard Tas1180
38Robert Black SA1175
39Mark Jappe SA1175
40John R Mayne USA1175
41Griff Ware ACT1150
42Michael Smart ACT1145
43Pat O'connor NSW1140
44Wayne Somerville IRL1130
45Bjarne Andersen DEN1125
46Ig Nieuwenhuis NED1120
47Alan Jones Qld1115
48Brian Lawless GBR1100
49Bruce Ballard NZL1097
50Ian Patterson Qld1090
51Martyn Rew NZL1090
52Peter Havlicek Vic1080
53Toby Weinstein USA1080
54Sam Arber Vic1080
55Niek Van Vucht ACT1065
56Tom Moss NSW1055
57Murray Perrin Qld1050
58Leigh Matheson NSW1050
59Alpay Ari 1045
60Alex Kemeny NSW1040
61Dan Baker USA1040
62Arthur Porter SA1035
63Tania Black SA1030
64Leon Slonim Vic1030
65Conny Wahlgren SWE1030
66Alan Boyce Qld1030
67Derek Pocock WA1030
68Jim Greer GBR1025
69Ron Landgraff USA1020
70Mark Laforge 1017
71David Graham NSW1005
Thank you to all the readers and visitors who entered this month's forum.
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October issue of Australian Bridge. And don't forget to check out your
June issue to see what the experts said about this month's hands.